A rush of silver steam jettisoned passed Rose's left ear, and she ducked instinctively.
"Not that one, the blue one!" the Doctor admonished, hooking an elbow around the console railing for stability as the gravity shifted him off balance.
"They're all blue!" she spat back, infuriated.
"The other blue one!" he yelled over the sound of the cloister bell. "You're gonna kill us; just don't touch anything else!"
Rose narrowed her eyes and set her jaw defiantly. She glared at the Doctor and, without taking her eyes from him, swung her palm around to slap the largest button within reach, plunging them into darkness.
Absolute silence for a handful of seconds, then—
"End program," the Doctor forced through clenched teeth. The lights of the holodeck came up, and the top of Rose's head was visible behind the prop console they were using. He circled the console, fuming, and she came into view, propped against it with her arms folded, staring angrily at the floor between her feet.
The Doctor put his hands in his pockets. "Maybe you shouldn't murder us next time," he said as he leaned against the jump seat and crossed his legs at the ankles.
"Maybe you're a lousy teacher," Rose responded, sulking. "'Can't touch this, don't touch that', you know, if you'd label the bloody switches, we might manage a landing that didn't need a Health-and-Safety warning."
"There's nothing wrong with my parking," the Doctor said defensively. "And a little brain-rattling never hurt anyone, not even humans. Keeps you on your toes."
"Knocks us off our feet, more like," Rose mumbled to herself.
The Doctor's irritation grew. "Look, if you can't handle the course work, I can manage perfectly fine—"
"I said I'd do it, and I will!" Rose interrupted with what the Doctor believed to be unnecessary force. He opened his mouth to argue, but lost the willpower as Rose pulled her legs to her chest and placed her chin on her knees in an insolent pout.
He had to remind himself that he was angry. The shape of her distracted him—a combination of small things that rendered him unable to speak. Her small huff of annoyance, the way her flared jeans covered all but the very tips of her white trainers, the slight protrusion of her lower lip, the uneven strings of her hood, one of which she fiddled with idly.
The Doctor gave up his anger and sat down on the floor next to her. They stared at identical points on the far wall for a few minutes while he waited for Rose to break the silence. She was upset with him, he knew. He'd lost patience with teaching her several times over the past few days, and her driving was still alarmingly disastrous. Still, she didn't pull away from him when their thighs touched, and her expression was more resigned than venomous.
When it became evident that Rose was not going to speak first, the Doctor told her, "They are labeled."
"Yeah, in circle-speak. Doesn't do anyone else much good."
The Doctor nodded his head upward to indicate the TARDIS, "She assumes anyone I let on board can read it. Doesn't bother with translating. I can teach you; that's worked out so far."
"Piss off," she grumbled with no real conviction. She removed the sting from her words by slumping sideways onto his shoulder. "I'm really, really bad at this," she admitted.
"Yep," the Doctor agreed. "You can give it up, if you like. I won't take it personal."
Rose gave an amused sniff. "Not likely. What else?"
"Well, you can work hard, or you can quit. Simple as that."
He felt Rose shift beside him; she stood to her feet and dusted off the back of her jeans. He sat and watched as she ran a hand over the console, tracing her fingers over each button, knob, and switch, all the while whispering to herself. She bit her lip, shook her head, and started over. Her study mesmerized him, and a tiny place in the back of his mind hoped she would notice.
When her sleeve caught the same lever twice, Rose's mouth gave an irritated quirk. She pulled an elastic band from her wrist and put up her hair in a messy ponytail, then shucked her jacket and tossed it towards the jump seat without looking. She missed; the dark pink fabric pooled on the floor. The Doctor retrieved it, taking its intended place on the jump seat, and continued to monitor Rose's progress.
It took two more days, several pop quizzes, and a row over whether the parking brake was teal or turquoise, but Rose finally managed to land the theoretical situation programmed in the holodeck. By mutual consent, the TARDIS had remained in the vortex until they could park it together.
When the moment came, Rose performed admirably. No jitters, no toppling, no teeth-rattling whump that usually foretold their arrival at their newest destination. The familiar grinding noise that signaled a landing was no more than a soft whirr, as Rose was unable to pull the brake as sharply as the Doctor's practiced hand normally would. It was, in a word, disappointing.
"There you go," the Doctor spread his arms in presentation. "That's a bit more like a driving test should go. Better than mine, to be perfectly honest."
"It's sort of… anticlimactic?" Rose admitted. "I mean, I wasn't expecting a fanfare, but—"
"Wait for it," the Doctor said, holding up a finger. Rose listened carefully, straining to hear anything outside the TARDIS doors. She turned to walk towards them, but stopped short as she heard the sound that heralded their arrival.
"MY KITCHEN!" Jackie's voice permeated through the walls, causing the windows to rattle. "GET OUT HERE, YOU TWO, YOU'VE CRUSHED MY CABINETS! THAT'LL NEED FIXING RIGHT NOW, AND DON'T THINK I WON'T—"
"Want to learn how to take off?" The Doctor asked Rose.
She nodded fervently, eyes wide.
"Yes, actually." She ran back to the console "What do I do?"
"Second verse," the Doctor said, releasing the parking break, "same as the first." He flipped two switches and pointed to the cluster of blue buttons that had given her so much trouble. "But in reverse," he concluded with a manic grin.
There was significantly more error than there had been during the landing, but they made it to the vortex in less than a minute, Jackie's voice fading away into angry curses as they phased out. Once they were safely away from Earth, their eyes met and they burst into giggles.
"Why would I ever stop doing this?" Rose asked herself, not intending to speak aloud.
"Who says you have to?" the Doctor responded, abruptly serious. He never wanted her to leave. Moreover, he never wanted her towant to leave.
Rose was looking at him strangely now. He hoped he hadn't said something wrong; he last thing he needed was to scare her away. "What?" he asked after she didn't reply.
Rose shrugged and raised her eyebrows, "Nothing, it's just…" she waved a hand towards the hem of his jacket, "I didn't know leather could go on fire like that."
The Doctor glanced down, and, seeing himself ablaze, beat frantically at his jacket, which had caught fire from a piece of unattended console, left burning after their abrupt departure.
Rose pursed her lips, rolled her eyes, and casually reached out for a now-familiar switch. With a flick of her finger, she sent a stream of fire-retardant foam onto the Doctor from an opening in the floor grating. The discussion on their long-term arrangements could wait; she went to the programming screen and set course for World War II Germany. He'd probably need a new coat. Upon entering the vortex, the TARDIS jerked sharply to one side and a screen began to flash a warning. The Doctor was immediately on his feet.
"What's the emergency?" Rose asked.